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George F. Will: Policies too sweet to eliminate

BY GEORGE F. WILL Published: June 9, 2013
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That many voted against modest reforms, thereby rendering themselves forever ineligible to speak the language of limited government. One of them is Marco Rubio. He is fluent in that language but he represents Florida. Actually, he represents the state's sugar cane growers better than he does its 19.3 million sugar consumers, or his own tea party expostulations. Texas, too, has cane growers but Sen. Ted Cruz, elected by espousing tea party principles, voted for those principles by voting for reform.

Since 1995, 75 percent of all agriculture subsidies have gone to the largest and wealthiest 10 percent of farms. Largely because of steadily loosened eligibility criteria — loosened at the collaborative behest of agriculture interests and the “caring class” (i.e., welfare workers) — food stamps are now used by 48 million Americans. The stamps buy less than they would were sugar quotas not raising the price of every edible thing, from ketchup to bread to yogurt, that contains sugar. But, then, big government always is most caring about the strong, the articulate and the organized.

About 6,700 generations (200,000 years of 30-year generations) ago, the human race arrived. About 400 generations ago, agriculture began. Seven generations ago (1800), it took five American farmers to feed one non-farmer. Until four generations ago, a majority of American workers were in agriculture. Today, less than 2 percent of the workforce are farmers, and one farmworker feeds 300 people. But 6,700 generations from now, there will still be today's web of policies — not a safety net but a hammock — woven for the comfort of sugar producers.

WASHINGTON POST WRITERS GROUP